It has snowed here the last couple of days. Not enough to amount to anything, the city hasn’t even sent people out to sand the streets. During the days it has gotten warm enough that most of the snow has melted off the streets anyway. But it sure is pretty.
Last night we had more snow. Powder is what they call it.
Now, I’m a “Chicago Girl”, born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago. I spent basically the first 20 years in Chicago. So I’m no stranger to snow, slush, ice, cold, winds, “wintry mix”, even “lake effect snow” (which could bring anything from just a dusting to six inches or more of snow). I lived through the “blizzard of ’67” (although I was only a few months old at the time and not able to remember it), and the “blizzard of ’79” (where I was in 8th grade and definitely remember). I was living with my grandparents in a Far North Suburb when, in 1984, the lows were -60+ without windchill, and the highs got up to a whole whopping -30. Heat wave there.
I listened as my grandmother called up the principal for my school and gave him a peice of her mind for not closing the school down because it was too cold for anybody to be outside. It didn’t matter if the students walked to school (like me, we lived a mile away from the High School so I didn’t get bussed) or if they had to wait at the bus stop, -60 was way too cold to be outside. Of course, she kept me home from school.
I’ve also lived in warm climates. My first culture shock experience was when I was in college in Oklahoma. The weather forecasters were predicting three inches of snow, THREE INCHES, and they shut down all the schools and told people who weren’t in important jobs to go home. Yeah, for three inches. Coming, as I did, from Chicago, I couldn’t believe they would shut down the city for three inches of snow (which never materialized, by the way). Even though it was explained to me that, at that time, the city had only one snow plow for the entire city (and again, I couldn’t understand that concept) I just didn’t get it. I figured the kids were laughing at getting a partial day off because somebody was being paranoid.
It took me actually moving to Oklahoma (instead of just going to school) before I really understood the challenges a city that doesn’t usually get snow faces when snow happens.
One of my jobs I had in Oklahoma was driving taxi. The year I was driving, the city had a major snow fall (even by Chicago standards) of 16″. By this time, the city had four snowplows (and let me tell you, the mayor had gotten lambasted in the local newspapers for “wasting taxpayers money buying expensive equipment we’ll never need” for that). After the city started to dig out (which still took a lot longer than I expected, but you know, only 4 snowplows for a city with a population of 500,000 people), I got a call to pick up a guy. He had to walk down his side street to a nearby main street so I could pick him up. Luckily, where he was going was on main streets which were pretty much clear by then.
We talked about the weather, as strangers do, and he asked how I was managing driving in the snow. I told him I was a Chicago native and the snow really didn’t bother me. He then asked me a question that reminded me about the culture shock I’d gone through in college: “How do y’all manage with as much snow as you get? We got 16″ and we’re at a standstill for days, and we hear about Chicago getting six or eight or more inches all the time and it seems like they never shut down!” I told him that we had many more snowplows than just four. That there wasn’t a town, or incorporated village that didn’t have a whole fleet of snowplows. That the fleet would start moving as soon as there was 1/2″ of snow on the ground. That we had silos filled with salt to get the bits that the snow plows didn’t get, and keep snow melted for a while as it was still falling.
He didn’t believe me.
I’ve since lived in North Carolina, another state that gets little snow. When I moved there, the average yearly snowfall was 6″. Yeah, that still took some getting used to. Although the ice storms now…
When we moved to Colorado a couple of years ago, I thought I’d come back to my roots. A more northern latitude combined with a higher altitude should bring a lot more snow, right? And since they got more snow out here, I should be back to a city that knows how to deal with it and doesn’t close down schools and shut down for predictions of 3″ of snow, right?
Yes and no.
We do get more snow out here than Oklahoma or North Carolina did, but because of the weather patterns, the city doesn’t have what I consider to be adequate amounts of snow removal equipment. Also, they don’t use salt at all (and I understand the reasoning behind it). They wait until after the snow has stopped falling to plow and sand, andthe sand actually makes the roads more slippery once the snow has melted than the snow made the roads.
They don’t send children home from school until there’s at least 1/2″ on the ground though.
One major difference between snows though, is the powder they get here. I don’t live in the super high altitude (for a flat lander) of ski country, but even here, the air is so dry that sometimes, when we get snow, it’s very dry and powdery. The first year here, we had five inches of powder in one snowfall. I marveled at it like a person who’d lived all her live in Florida and had never seen real snow. The powder stood, five inches tall, on a blade of grass. It’s amazing to see, and amazingly beautiful.
Last night, the snow we got was powder. The evergreens in our yard have what looks like a coating of confectioners sugar on them.
So do the bare limbed aspens.
The mountains in the distance are covered in snow again, and have a hazy green effect to them, the snow blurring the crispness of the evergreens.
We only had about a half inch, and yet, it’s turned the whole world into magic.
I hope you all have a wonderful Valentine’s Day. Mine will be awesome, because as soon as my husband goes to work I will be going to Garden of the Gods and looking at the rock formations in newly covered snow.